Propane System dies in the cold... (ERA 170M, Winnie...)`

The friendliest place on the web for anyone with an RV or an interest in RVing!
If you have answers, please help by responding to the unanswered posts.

bigfatguy

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 6, 2013
Posts
123
Our ERA 170M has a small (9 gallon) propane tank on the underside of the rig, basically exposed to the environment.

We were camping in a site at about 6000 feet elevation. the air temperature was in the low 40's, but there was snow on the ground.

The propane system died. The stove spluttered, the heater threw an error code, the generator wouldn't start.

Once we got to a lower altitude, the air temperature was basically the same, but the ground was apparently warmer, and the system came back to life.

in fact, we've camped at temperatures down to the low 30's before, with no such issues... although, again, there was no snow on the ground at that time, and we were at a lower altitude.

Is there anything we can do to harden the propane system against a cold snowy environment? Am I right in thinking it's the ground temp causing the issues?
 

Lou Schneider

Site Team
Joined
Mar 14, 2005
Posts
11,791
You may have gotten a propane/butane mix.  Propane itself has a boiling point of -40 F so you shouldn't have any problem with it vaporizing above 0 F.

However, sometimes propane is mixed with butane, which doesn't vaporize below 32 F.  You can find this in areas where the temperature is expected to remain well above freezing.

Did you last fill your tank in a warm area?
 

Laura & Charles

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 10, 2016
Posts
821
Location
Could be anywhere. Originally from Ohio. Go Bucks!
I can see how perhaps extreme temperatures could impact propane performance, but air temps only. I suspect your issue is related to either pressure or oxygen concentration or both. Someone on here who knows a lot more than I will be better able to describe adjustments to fuel mixture and/or to the pressure regulator.
 

John From Detroit

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 12, 2005
Posts
26,277
Location
Davison Michigan
I too suspect the Butane.. Propane is good to almost -40  Now I've seen -40 but we still cooked breakfast (Propane stove) no problem (Enough heat leaked out of the vintage non-insulated house to keep the tanks above vapor point.

Butane burns a touch hotter but only if it's above freezing in the tank below freezing no joy

Temp solution is a 100 watt light bulb, In a cage. near the tank.  Bring it up to 33 degrees and all should work

Better solution  Purge and re-fill with Propane.

And the last place you filled up.. REPORT THEM.
 

Gary RV_Wizard

Site Team
Joined
Feb 2, 2005
Posts
76,141
Location
West Palm Beach, FL
Propane appliances are sensitive to altitude (air pressure), and 6000+ feet is where the air pressure begins to get low enough to matter.  Different burner jets are used in appliances installed at 5000 ft or above, but that doesn't work well in a mobile RV.

Even if the temperature closer to the frozen ground was lower, I doubt it was low enough to affect propane. If you had a propane-butane blends (purchased as "LPG" in a warmer climate), temps below 40 could possibly be problematic (low vapor pressure), However, most Propane/butane blends are mostly propane anyway and should be good to around 30.
Moisture in the LPG tank & lines is another (rare) possibility. The flow of the gas through the regulator chills it below ambient and it can freeze up if there is water vapor mixed it.
Top of your tank with propane purchased in an area where temps are lower and you will get 100% propane for sure. Increasing the percentage of propane in your tank should reduce potential problems.
 

jubileee

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
Posts
708
Oil pan heater pads work well on small propane bottles. Permanent installation ( adhesive or magnetic) and around $30.
 

Old_Crow

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 20, 2016
Posts
3,257
Location
Tom's Place, California
When we hosted at the north rim of the Grand Canyon, later in the season, when the temps started to drop, we had trouble with the 150gal tank and regulator we were hooked to.  I ended up running a drop light out to the tank and putting it under the top cover with the regulator.  That 60w bulb solved all the problems.
 

JakeR

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 29, 2011
Posts
132
I recommend having your the pressure in your propane line checked.  We had an issue in PEI and it turned out the pressure was way below where it should have been.  Turned out the regulator had all kinds of brown junk in it.  Had it replaced and no issue since then.  We regularly camp at high altitudes and low temps without an issue.  The pressure is easy for someone with the right tools and know how to check.  Glad we found one in PEI.  I think we have the same basic tank and regulator.
 

garyb1st

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 31, 2010
Posts
4,121
Location
Southern California
Good information.  How can you determine if propane has been mixed with butane?  Also is it more likely that propane bought in the Southwest is more likely to contain butane? 
 

bigfatguy

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 6, 2013
Posts
123
my vendor (who is a big propane-and-propane-accessories business, not just some dude out the back of a gas station) swears his propane is pure propane.

For the record, if the issue is the burners not being properly set for high altitude, does the symptom look like you're running out of gas? (low flow, sputtering, but seems to burn clean), or is is a quality-of-fire issue? (smokey, etc...)
 

mel s

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 28, 2014
Posts
881
Gary RV_Wizard said:
Propane appliances are sensitive to altitude (air pressure), and 6000+ feet is where the air pressure begins to get low enough to matter.  Different burner jets are used in appliances installed at 5000 ft or above, but that doesn't work well in a mobile RV.

Even if the temperature closer to the frozen ground was lower, I doubt it was low enough to affect propane. If you had a propane-butane blends (purchased as "LPG" in a warmer climate), temps below 40 could possibly be problematic (low vapor pressure), However, most Propane/butane blends are mostly propane anyway and should be good to around 30.
Moisture in the LPG tank & lines is another (rare) possibility. The flow of the gas through the regulator chills it below ambient and it can freeze up if there is water vapor mixed it.
Top of your tank with propane purchased in an area where temps are lower and you will get 100% propane for sure. Increasing the percentage of propane in your tank should reduce potential problems.
I too suspect that the LP regulator needs to be replaced.
 

decaturbob

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 31, 2015
Posts
532
Location
central Illinois
I run into trouble with my propane with my grill and my smoker when temps below 40.  No butane in our propane tanks, cold effects flow and is probably a regulator issue I have.  In my RV, I have been in 15deg weather and no issues at all with propane system.
 

rvwanderer1

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 30, 2018
Posts
53
Location
everywhere
It may have to do with being one mile above sea level. Different pressures can affect the system.  If you get above 12,000 feet you may also find your having troubles with your engine.... 

 

Daffy

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 14, 2015
Posts
183
Location
BFE Illinois
The tanks as they evaporate get colder, if the ambient temp and humidity coincide frost will accumulate on the tank and freeze the lpg.  I've used lpg heaters and lpg fueled equipment for 35 years, This style of tank wrap has been used by me for just as long. Did not read the specs on this one but the ones I use are thermally controlled. ie they shut off and on as needed to keep propane flowing.

https://www.amazon.com/Robinair-10994-Heater-Blanket-Refrigerant/dp/B000NP3KQI/ref=asc_df_B000NP3KQI/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=312142020868&hvpos=1o4&hvnetw=g&hvrand=4822020482610200822&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9021872&hvtargid=pla-597357233204&psc=1
 

grashley

Well-known member
Joined
May 7, 2015
Posts
6,591
Location
Western Kentucky
Daffy, great idea, but that specific product was for Freon tanks and maintained 125℉.  Here is one for LP.  It maintains 32℉

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PKKHC2Y?aaxitk=IYTJ.q5AhU8nOz1UWsicgg&pd_rd_i=B00PKKHC2Y&pf_rd_p=3ff6092e-8451-438b-8278-7e94064b4d42&hsa_cr_id=3305384970501&sb-ci-n=asinImage&sb-ci-v=https%3A%2F%2Fimages-na.ssl-images-amazon.com%2Fimages%2FI%2F910XRHPllTL.jpg&sb-ci-a=B00PKKHC2Y
 
Top Bottom